Arteta’s revolution: How the media missed Arsenal’s change after Xmas Day 2020




by Tony Attwood

How Arteta built the new Arsenal and took us to the top of the league part 2

In the summer of 2020 Arsenal brought in Partey, Magalhães and Elneny (the latter returning from loan) and gave them and the rest of the defence the job of learning to play with reduced tackling.  For once it was fortunate that the media didn’t notice anything, because for the first third of the season it looked like an utter disaster, as the defenders learned their new approach on the job.

The first 14 games of the season took us up to Christmas Day and by then the knives were out, because without knowledge of the tactical transformation taking place it looked as if the manager didn’t really know what he was doing.

Thus the Express ran the headline

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta warned he has seven days to save his job or he’ll be sacked

That was said by Perry Groves talking with the notorious Talk Sport.  In reply Arteta said, “From within the club everything I am feeling is just support, encouragement, and total confidence that we will get through this together,”

Here is how the league table looked on entering the holiday season and the journalists who had not got the slightest idea of what was going on (in that they never once mentioned the decline in yellow cards for Arsenal), were persuading AFTV and others to demand Arteta’s immediate removal.

And it is a moment worth mentioning because those demanding this, failed to notice that Arsenal were now letting in fewer goals than table-topping Liverpool.  It was part of a series of catastrophic errors for “journalists”, “commentators” and “analysts” who collectively could not see what was happening.

So the table on Xmas Day read…

Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Liverpool 14 9 4 1 36 19 17 31
2 Everton 14 8 2 4 25 19 6 26
3 Tottenham Hotspur 13 7 4 2 25 12 13 25
4 Leicester City 13 8 0 5 24 17 7 24
5 Southampton 14 7 3 4 25 19 6 24
6 Manchester City 13 6 5 2 19 12 7 23
7 Manchester United 12 7 2 3 22 19 3 23
8 Chelsea 13 6 4 3 26 14 12 22
9 West Ham United 13 6 3 4 21 16 5 21
10 Wolverhampton Wanderers 13 6 2 5 13 17 -4 20
11 Aston Villa 11 6 1 4 21 13 8 19
12 Newcastle United 13 5 3 5 17 22 -5 18
13 Crystal Palace 14 5 3 6 19 25 -6 18
14 Leeds United 13 5 2 6 22 24 -2 17
15 Arsenal 14 4 2 8 12 18 -6 14


Only Pep Guardiola spoke out in Arsenal’s favour!   Responding to the howls for a sacking he said on BBC Radio 5 Live. “They will do a huge, big mistake if they [sack Arteta],’    And. ‘I’m pretty sure they are going to trust him.” (as quoted in the Mail).

“I understand that the analysts analyse the results. But I was with him many years and I know his incredible quality as a human being and especially as a manager, how he is involved in everything. It’s just a question of time and he will do well.”

But TalkSport was not going to let go – (and of course they have never once apologised for their total lack of understanding and profound misreading of the situation).  Their headline on 22 December was

‘Mikel Arteta has THREE games to save his job’ claims former Arsenal star Perry Groves, who believes manager could be SACKED by end of December.

Caught Offside, relishing Arsenal’s woes as it saw them wrote

Mikel Arteta now odds-on for sack this season, Mauricio Pochettino considered an outside chance for the Arsenal job

In many ways it was totally obscene, as with the Sporting Life’s headline

Arsenal manager odds: Mikel Arteta leads sack race odds 

Now the point here is that it is possible to find hundreds and hundreds of these “Arteta to be sacked” headlines along with articles frantically speculating as to who would be next in line for the hot seat.

And of course, as we know it didn’t happen.   What also didn’t happen was any apology for the frantic fever that gripped the media and led to this vast array of wrong speculations.

What actually happened was that Arsenal won five and drew two of their next seven league games. And that wasn’t a blip.  A table made up of the rest of the season read, at the top…

P Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Manchester City 24 20 0 4 62 20 42 60
2 Arsenal 24 14 5 5 43 21 22 47
3 Manchester United 24 13 8 3 43 21 22 47
4 West Ham United 24 13 5 6 41 28 13 44
5 Chelsea 24 12 6 6 29 22 7 42
6 Leicester City 24 11 6 7 42 33 9 39
7 Liverpool 24 11 5 8 32 23 38
8 Tottenham Hots 24 11 4 9 43 31 12 37


OK the gap to Manchester City at the top was big, but this showed Arsenal had suddenly turned a corner.  Along with that an analysis at the end of the season showed that compared with the previous season Arsenal’s tackles were down 22%, fouls were down 18% and yellow cards down an amazing 45%!  

In fact this last stastistic – yet another one ignored by the media – showed that Arsenal had moved from being the most yellow-carded team with 86 yellows in 2019/20, down to 17th in the yellow-card table with just 47.

And what is amazing is that this wasn’t achieved by changing the entire style of play.  True there were slightly more shots per game than the season before, but that was very slight as was the fact that there were 1.4 more passes per game.   Likewise goals, possession percentage, aerial challenges won were all very close to the season before.  Nothing had changed except the discipline.


Team Goals Shots pg Discipline Possession% Pass% AerialsWon
Arsenal 56 10.7 865 52.9 83.6 13.5
Arsenal 2020/1 55 12.1 475 52.7 85.0 13.5


And amazingly these seemingly well-paid journalists didn’t notice a thing!!!

The series continues.

4 Replies to “Arteta’s revolution: How the media missed Arsenal’s change after Xmas Day 2020”

  1. More nonsense from a deadwood hack.

    He is speaking on Talksport so this won’t come as a shock to anyone:

    “Former Tottenham midfielder Jamie O’Hara has predicted exactly when he thinks Arsenal will “crumble” this season. O’Hara expects the Gunners to challenge for the Premier League title but collapse in the last month of the campaign.

    You saw what happened to Arsenal last season when they were trying to get in the top four, they crumbled”.

    Did we though?

    Surely to make a statement like that you need a little perspective, don’t you? Not only perspective, but a few facts might help as well.

    Regarding the usual suspects battling it out for that final 4th spot this is how last season’s final 8 and 4 games panned out. A fair number of games for what is generally referred to as the ‘Run-in I would have thought.

    Final 8 Matches

    Spurs 17 from 24 points

    Arsenal 15 from 24 points

    Chelsea 12 from 24 points

    Man Utd 7 from 24 points

    So, hardly a capitulation (Crumbled). If anyone capitulated it was Chelsea and Man Utd. Personally, I would argue Spurs pipped Arsenal on the back of their own efforts rather than our capitulation.

    So, lets narrow it down to the last 4 matches.

    Spurs 10 from 12 points

    Chelsea 8 from 12 points

    Arsenal 6 from 12 points

    Man Utd 4 from 12 points

    So, okay by then it was down to Arsenal or Spurs for that final 4th spot. We dropped 6 points, Spurs just 2, but here’s the thing, our 6 dropped points were away at Newcastle and away at Spurs. 2 tough fixtures. Losing both of those is hardly a ‘capitulation’. Two of Spurs last 4 matches were against relegated teams.

    Not only that but we went into those final 4 matches with a lot of injuries and ended up playing Spurs with 10 men for an hour.

    That is NOT capitulation that is life. We had injuries. It happens. We had a player sent off. It happens. Spurs played well. Took advantage and deservedly won. It happens. But we did NOT capitulate. Not in that match. Not in the last 4 matches. Not in the last 8.

    But this is a constant narrative that media perpetuate. ‘Arsenal always collapses at the business end’. People pick up on that and run with it. You only have to read the comments in the papers. “Arsenal will blow-it. They always do” blah blah blah. But again, do they? Or at least do they in comparison to everyone else? Again, this is where we need perspective.

    This is how we compare with Spurs over the previous 4 seasons showing points gained over firstly, the final 8 games, then the final 4.

    Final 8 games

    ARSENAL Points

    20/21 19 from 24
    19/20 16 from 24
    18/19 10 from 24
    17/18 15 from 24

    Total 60 from 96

    SPURS Points

    20/21 13 from 24
    19/20 17 from 24
    18/19 10 from 24
    17/18 16 from 24

    Total 56 from 96

    Final 4 games

    ARSENAL Points

    20/21 12 from 12
    19/20 6 from 12
    18/19 4 from 12
    17/18 6 from 12

    Total 28 from 48

    SPURS Points

    20/21 6 from 12
    19/20 10 from 12
    18/19 4 from 12
    17/18 9 from 12

    Total 29 from 48

    So, there you have it. Despite rumours to the contrary Arsenal ‘capitulate’ no more or less than Spurs. Neither over the extended run-in or the last ‘month’. I haven’t done the figures for our other ‘top 4’ rivels but I doubt they are much better or worse than us either. Now given that over a season Spurs, Chelsea and Man Utd have been better teams than us by way of finishing above us, our run in is actually relatively good and far from a ‘capitulation’.

    But that is the myth that is endlessly repeated by the media, and from what I read, bought into by a sheeplike audience.

    But this is what these journalists do. Arsenal don’t lose, they capitulate. They don’t get out played, they get bullied. They don’t play poorly, they lack leaders.

    The truth is out there. If you’re prepared to look for it.

  2. Don’t forget that the decisive end of season was result was at Spurs, who we were playing oof the park until the decisive intervention by the referee to give them their customary imaginary penalty and also reduce Arsenal to 10 men.

  3. John L

    I know, but I didn’t really even want to go too deeply into that. But yes, that was the crucial game. If it had been refereed differently, we may well of got the draw that would have made all the difference. So close, yet so far.

    And that’s my point really. We were a Gnats c**k from finishing 4th. It was that close. We were even a tad unlucky. But oh no. We can’t have that.

    We can’t have ‘Arsenal just missed out’ or ‘Arsenal were unfortunate’, No, it’s Arsenal, so they had to of ‘crumbled’.

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